Transition to autumn wine drinking with our Top Five wine tasting lineup for September

Casual wine drinkers, aficionados, and beginners alike: Each month we expose you to new things, educating and diversifying your palate with a lineup of our monthly wine picks. We're sharing some of the best we've tried in the last month so that you can seek them out and bring them to dinner this month. It's 64 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 18 degrees to you much more worldly Celsius-loving folk) outside on Cape Cod as I write this, a far cry from the summer months that brought us but one red (a Tempranillo from Texas) out of fifteen bottles shared in our June, July, and August tastings. Yes, like Pinot Noir grown far enough north (or south) to "cross the cranberry line", our September lineup has us looking to autumn and the cooler temperatures ahead. Cheers!

Further reading: Our August top five lineup of rosé and white wines could not be more refreshing

NV Philipe Gimonnet-Gonet Champagne Tradition

Why we chose it: This bottle was quite notable in our lives as it was our 1,000 bottle purchased (err, the 1000th bottle we've tracked) since Meghan and I combined our wine collections several years ago. We wanted to make it a special bottle, and saved it for quite some time before finding the right moment to drink it. An complex nose of brioche (which is typical), honey, spindrift (that's spray blown from a rough sea or surf), and harbor mist gave way to a very smooth and fresh Champagne that featured bright acidity like biting into a fresh apple. It was, interestingly, not at all creamy, eschewing that quality for something a little more toasty and a touch nutty on the finish. This is a great food Champagne.

What to look for: We picked this out while tasting it with the winemaker himself, and offer it as a lesson on seeking out less mass market Champagnes. It's easy to get dragged into the bottles you see so often, the Veuve Clicquot or the Moët and Chandon of the world. We enjoy them too, but ask your wine purveyor to find you something new. 

2010 Bodegas La Val Albariño Rías Baixas

Why we chose it: Pouring this typically medium yellow colored wine on the occasion of Albariño Day, August 1, we found a nose of lemon curd, slate, and spring green as if walking into a flower shop in springtime. Meghan picked up oak and butter on the palate, and buttered popcorn in the back that reminded us of a Chardonnay. Its juicy peach notes are fresh up front, while a touch of menthol asserts itself as its going down.

What to look for: We've long been admirers of the Albariño (pronounced "All-bar-een-yo") grape varietal, perhaps most famous for the wines it produces -- floral and characterized by peach and apricot fruit notes -- in the Rías Baixas DO (Denominación de Origen) region of Galicia, near the Atlantic Ocean in the northwest of Spain. Spain's Rías Baixas region produces the overwhelming share of Albariño you will find on retail shelves, but don't ever be afraid to try the varietal produced in other regions when you find it. Make sure you spend some time with Travelling Corkscrew's 101 on Albariño to learn more about these great wines.

Further reading: Celebrate Albariño Day with these great bottles, perfect for summer yet versatile for the whole year

2011 The Crater Rim Pinot Noir Bendigo Terrace (Central Otago, New Zealand)

Why we chose it: We celebrated Pinot Noir Day on August 18, a portend of the perfect season for drinking this globally famous red wine that is soon to be upon us. We'll go to New Zealand to find our recommendation for this lineup. Far more full bodied and fruitier than the Beaune that we tried on the same evening, this bottle from Crater Rim is woody and smoldering, substantive with even some intriguing Tempranillo qualities. It tasted surprisingly hot, making it possible to confuse with something from California, spicy, and generally driven more by heat and body than by fruit.

What to look for: In considering the spectrum of Pinot Noir on offer around the world, we like this as an example of New Zealand because it melds some of the heat you'll find in California with the fruit forwardness you'll find in Oregon, and some of the terroir-driven complexity you'll find in the Old World. New Zealand's excellent Pinot sometimes gets crowded out in the American market by offerings from Oregon (very good of their own accord) and -- of course -- Burgundy. Don't be fooled: New Zealand Pinot Noir is some of the world's best.

Further reading: Celebrate Pinot Noir Day with some of the world's most diverse, versatile, and ubiquitous wines

2014 Diren Öküzgözü Collection

Why we chose it: We found this wine made from Turkey’s native Öküzgözü red grape in the Turkish Airlines lounge at Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD). To be clear then — because this is such an unusual wine — “Diren” is the quite established winery in northern Turkey, and Öküzgözü is the grape varietal. A bit astringent and rough around the edges at first, we found that this wine paired amazingly with the Turkish dishes served in the lounge. It is truly a case for the notion that the best food and wine pairings are often those that match food and wine from the same part of the world. It’s warmingly alcoholic with brambly red red (yes, two reds) raspberry fruit. We didn’t pay for the glasses in the lounge (thanks, Priority Pass!), but we believe this wine can be had in the $10 range. We’d consider a true house wine contender if true.

What to look for: Oh my. Turkish wine (and Greek wine, and Lebanese wine, and any other wine grown in this general region of the world) is not going to be on the shelf at every wine shop. We actually find it harder to find than wine from the more northern Balkans that we also find to be quite compelling. A good wine shop can order it in for you, though.

Further reading: Review: Turkish Airlines Lounge, Washington-Dulles Airport (IAD) via Priority Pass is a true gem

2013 Flor de Pingus (Ribera del Duero, Spain)

Why we chose it: We revisited the stunning 2013 Flor de Pingus from Spain's Ribera del Duero region just about a year after first trying it the mid-summer of 2016. Extraordinary smoothness is conveyed in the nose alongside a little leather a little spice, and slight herbal qualities of sage and bay leaves. This wine is crazy, crazy smooth, like chocolate melting in a sauce pan, with minimal fruit on the palate but a little of the telltale Ribera del Duero blueberry essence. It's not the most complex wine we've ever tried at this price point (upward of $100, so not something you're going to be drinking daily), but super delightful. We loved it. It presents very well, and is defined first and foremost by how "off the rails" smooth it was drinking as of late July 2017.

What to look for: We see Flor de Pingus when we are out and about, so you should not find it terribly hard to find as a higher end bottle from Ribera del Duero, a region that we've written about from afar and on the ground (we've an excellent local dining recommendation, should you choose to visit). In general, though, wines from this region are going to regularly offer up those leathers, earths, and spices alongside notes of blueberry, blackberry, and dark raspberry. They're quite amazing.

Further reading: Top five wines for August: Unique whites, Rosé summer sipper, and red fine dining champions